Application Deadline: February 20, 2022
We're looking for researchers to work with us on understanding moral circle expansion and related social phenomena. This position offers a lot of flexibility with few requirements other than the production of high-quality research that fits within our mission. We are open to a variety of research methods: qualitative (e.g. historical case studies, interviews, conceptual analysis), quantitative (e.g. nationally representative surveys, behavioral experiments, analysis of existing industry and survey data), or mixed methods.
We are also hiring a generalist, and the application form allows you to apply for one or both positions.
When SI was founded in 2017, we were primarily focused on farmed animals as the frontier of humanity's moral circle. We expect our future research on this to be similar to our previous research, most of which is listed on our Reports page. We also have some ideas for future research listed in our current research agenda that may be of interest to applicants.
In late 2020, we incorporated a second research focus area on artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial sentience (AS): robots, machines, and other entities made by humans that can have positive or negative experiences such as happiness or suffering. Because this is such a new field, a lot of our research so far has been big-picture in nature. For example, we have completed a literature review on the moral consideration of artificial entities, and we have in-progress research on the predictors and features of moral consideration for artificial entities, and a US nationally representative survey on people’s moral attitudes towards AS. Over the next few years, we expect to continue to produce research aimed at building a robust body of theoretical and empirical literature in this field. For further information on our perspective on this topic, please see this blog post.
In addition to farmed animals and AI/AS, possible research topics include the moral inclusion of wild animals and generalizing historical examples (i.e. focusing on a general understanding of moral inclusion processes instead of analyzing specific current or future targets of expansion).
Publishing Research Findings
We want all of our research to be thoroughly vetted and publically available, and we are open to various publication formats. Our previous publications have been reports (i.e. white papers, working papers), academic journal articles, blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, conference presentations, and a book. The best publication format depends partly on the content and audience of the work, but we also consider how we can support early-career researchers working on the topic of moral circle expansion, and some publication formats may be more useful for their professional development.
Specific Tasks and Duties
This is, in general, what our researchers work on:
- Collaborate with our small team to decide what projects to pursue
- Conduct that research fairly independently, typically with regular check-ins and peer review prior to publication. Frequent questions and meetings will be expected at the beginning, but should slow down over time as you become more familiar with the research literature and methods.
- Pursue skill development. For example, a qualitatively oriented researcher could take a statistics course online in order to develop some quantitative expertise.
- Provide assistance as needed with other research projects and ideas, mainly by reviewing research for accuracy, clarity, quality of the reasoning, and overlooked evidence
- Since we’re a small organization, depending on your individual preferences and abilities, you may also have opportunities to take on other organizational tasks. Examples include administrative and management work, interviews and media commentary, and meeting with and advising organizations who are interested in our research findings.
- Employment type: Full-time (US "at-will" or UK "permanent"); we may consider a contract or half-time role for exceptional candidates.
- Location: Remote; Sentience Institute is US-based (we may be able to make arrangements for international hires, but we are unable to sponsor US visas). Current staff are in the US and UK.
- Experience type: Prior research experience in academia, think tanks, another research institution, independent/freelance work, or any other context
- Start date: Flexible, as early as April 2022
- Work style / Supervision: Relatively independent with frequent peer feedback
- Salary: $45,000-60,000 (or international equivalent per costs of living) dependent on qualifications and need
- Paid time off: 28 days per year (all-inclusive)
- Work schedule: Flexible, around 40 hours per week
- Professional development: Employees will have opportunities to attend conferences and seminars relevant to their work and engage in other professional development opportunities.
- Job title: The exact job title is flexible (e.g. Researcher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow) depending on the experience and interests of the applicant.
- Prior research experience in academia, think tanks, another research institution, independent/freelance work, or any other context
- Expertise in at least one methodology used by SI, such as designing, running, and analyzing experiments
- Interest in research that furthers SI mission of studying moral circle expansion
- General research ability, such as being able to read and understand a wide range of qualitative and quantitative literature
- General writing ability, such as writing a paper publishable in a top peer-reviewed journal
- Ability to work mostly independently with limited structure or supervision, with a willingness to make major research decisions collaboratively with others at SI
We encourage you to apply even if you don't meet some or any of these:
- Graduate-level education, preferably a Ph.D., in the social sciences or a related field (e.g. computer science, applied ethics, digital humanities) or comparable non-academic research qualifications
- Comfort with making big-picture research decisions and navigating very open-ended research questions
- Comfort with speculation and making judgements based on limited evidence when stronger evidence is not available, including comfort with changing your mind based on new evidence
- Familiarity with the ideas of effective altruism
- Familiarity with the farmed animal movement and its strategies, particularly with the debates and research on effective animal advocacy
- Familiarity with the ideas around artificial intelligence and existential risk, and in particular artificial sentience
This is our plan for the application process, for your convenience:
- First, applicants complete the application form below, including a short statement of research interests.
- If we're interested in moving forward, we'll contact you to schedule a ~1 hour interview and give you questions to prepare for discussion. We will let you know how many applicants are being considered at this stage.
- After the interview, if we're interested in moving forward, we'll provide a short (max 2 hours) trial project, such as providing feedback on a preregistration draft for an experiment, providing feedback on a qualitative case study, or analyzing raw data from a survey. We will let you know how many applicants are being considered at this stage.
- After that, we may contact you with further questions before we make our final decision.
Click here to apply to the Researcher position (Google Form).
Please note that the application form requires a Google account for uploads. If you do not have a Google account you may send your responses and materials to email@example.com.
Sentience Institute is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment regardless of their race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We know job applications can take a lot of time, and we will do our best to be considerate of your schedule throughout our hiring process.